KEY POINTS

  • The ESA spotted a fireball event in Germany
  • The fireball was most likely caused by a meteor
  • Fragments from the meteor may have reached the ground

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) vast network of sky-watching cameras has detected a fireball event brighter than Venus over Germany. Based on the appearance and characteristics of the strange fiery object, the ESA believes it was caused by a meteor that hit Earth.

The incident took place on Jan. 18 at around 5:44 p.m. local time. The fireball was spotted streaking across the sky over northwestern Germany. Based on its trajectory, its fragments may have landed somewhere in the city of Oldenburg.

The remarkable cosmic event was picked up by the ESA’s Fireball Recover and Interplanetary Observation Network (FRIPON). This is a network composed of 100 cameras stationed in France. It mainly monitors cosmic activity in the region.

Last month, two of FRIPON’s cameras spotted a stream of light as it appeared over Germany. The light was produced by a fireball, which is formed after an asteroid hits Earth and enters the atmosphere as a meteor.

The friction from the atmosphere causes the space rock to burn up and form a fireball brighter than the planet Venus. Sometimes, the intense heat and pressure from the atmosphere can cause meteors to explode mid-air, producing a bright flash and loud noise that can be seen and heard for miles.

Based on the data collected by the ESA and FRIPON, scientists believe the object that entered Earth’s atmosphere was only about 10 to 40 centimeters wide. As noted by the agency, the meteor may have fragmented after going through the atmosphere. The ESA believes some of these fragments may have reached the ground.

“The object that impacted Earth on this occasion is estimated to have been just 10-40 cm in diameter, before it entered the atmosphere,” the ESA stated. “The observed fireball flew in a south to north direction, west of the German city of Cloppenburg and heading towards the nearby city of Friesoythe.”

“It is possible that one, or even several small pieces survived the journey through our protective atmosphere and reached the ground as meteorites,” the agency continued. “Such meteorites however will be just a few grams in mass and difficult to find.”

fireball Fireballs – meteors that appear brighter than the planet Venus – like the one seen here over the desert of Central Australia are common and can be spotted all over the world. Photo: Creative Commons